Reviewer Ed Farolan
Dates and Venue 29-31 October 2009 | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver
This special Halloween presentation, in a 35mm print imported from Europe, is widely regarded as the magnum opus of Dario Argento, shock maestro of the Italian film genre known as giallo. It's a film made over 30 years ago, and maybe then, it was a shocker. But today, the film is just another memory of how films were made at that time, with no computer enhancements, and so, you look at this and say: "It's silly, cheesy, and corny".
What's interesting, though, is Argento's use of colours. He likes bright colours, especially red, the horror film colour, as blood is always splattered in films of this genre. But other than that, heplays with different strong colours like blue, yellow and green. From the lighting aspect, I'd say his film was quite coulourful and something for an artist to muse over. Jessica Harper plays a young American ballet student newly arrived at a prestigious German dance academy. She finds out the secrets of this place, that it's actually a coven of witches. The ending is a happy one because she comes out of this alive.
This is probably the horror film B-type equivalent of the spaghetti westerns of old, but not at all comparable to the American horror films that really scare you out of your seats.
You, The Living
Dates and Venue 22-24 October 2009 | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver
Who would have thought that Swedes could come up with humour and absurdity? This film is an example of how Scandinavians do have humour after all. Naturally, it's comedie noire, as is this mind-blowing, multi-layered, and psychedelicized film from Swedish director Roy Andersson. The title comes from Goethe, (Du levande), and it made its debut at Cannes in 2007. This is one of only four features this filmmaker has made in 40 years.
Critics have commented about the Monty Python absurdity of his style combined with his darker side, the "existential angst" projections which he most probably inherited from Ingmar Bergman. In this film, we see a mix of the dark and the absurd, dead-pan humour but all delivered to perfection with visual compositions comparable to the classic tableau. Some scenes are interconnected, and others, not, but there is a thread that unites the plot where all these characters intertwine to tell us that despite the depressioon and anguish of life, there is humour and imagination that can redeem us.
Karel Vachek: Poet Provocateur
Dates and Venue 27 & 30 September, 18 & 25 October, 1 & 8 November | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver
After four years teaching English and Media Communications in a university in the Czech Republic, I was able to make some sense from the films of Vachek. His films may not make sense to non-Czech viewers because they deal with events and names only Czechs would fathom.
When one understands the Czech absurdist, Franz Kafka, then we begin to understand where Vacek comes from. Kafka's Metamorphosis has had tremendous impact on the works of absurdists like Romanian Eugene Ionesco, French Algerian Albert Camus, Irishman Samuel Beckett, Spaniards Antonio Martinez Ballesteros and Luis Bunuel, and many others. Kafka, indeed, was the prime mover of the Absurdist movement, and what Vacek and Bunuel did was put the Kafkaesque nightmares into film.
Vachek, in his films, mixes improvisation, staged sequences, cinéma vérité, public performance and first-person confrontation, taking Czechoslovakia's social, political and cultural history into the realm of absurdity. Elective Affinities was made in the dying days of the Prague Spring of 1968. Here he presents an unusual, ironic, and irreverent behind-the-scenes account of Czechoslovakia’s turbulent 1968 presidential election, a last gasp, as it were, of "independence" for the country prior to the Warsaw Pact invasion of August of that same year. His unconventional approach was to begin shooting at the point where other news crews switched their cameras off. The result is an all-access, often comic, cinéma vérité record of the unguarded moments, and conversations of such politicians as Antonín Novotný, Alexander Dubček, and General Ludvik Svoboda.
Another film more recently produced (2006), Závis, the Prince of Pornofolk Under the Influence of Griffith's Intolerance and Tati's Monsieur Hulot's Holiday or the Establition and Doom of Czechoslovakia 1918-1992, is even more absurd. It starts off with balladeer Zavis strumming his guitar singing folk, or more precisely, "pornofolk" music about whores and pornography, then all of a sudden, images of a dog’s funeral, a ketchup fight, a reconstruction of the Battle of Austerlitz and a motorbike show are flashed on the screen. We see him, like Hitchcock, coming in and out of the frames, sometimes giving instructions to film or to stop filming, and in this absurd chain of "pseudo-events", he gives a lecture of how film has to be funny because that is the essence of film, and goes on with his lecture (probably his film class in FAMU, the Film Academy in Prague) underscoring the Czech Republic’s newly privatized, corporatized, globalized economy and its corruption scandals and environmental disasters.
It's something out of the ordinary, and again, as I mentioned when I did the review of the films of the surrealist Bunuel, educational, especially for emerging filmmakers who might get inspired by the unorthodox methods by which this filmmaker creates his films.
Young Freud in Gaza
Date and Venue 21 October 2009 @ 7.30pm | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver
When we view this film, we can sigh with relief that we're not living in Palestine's war-torn area. This Swedish 2008 documentary directed by Pea Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian focuses on the troubled Gaza strip where war and violence never end. It's not only the skirmishes and Israeli missile attacks from Israel, it is further riddled with armed clashes between Hamas and Fatah factions. Enter 28-year old Ayed, a young psychotherapist working in the Palestinian Authority’s Clinic for Mental Health. He provides therapy to a variety of patients — male and female, adults and children — for depression, stress, anxiety attacks and suicidal tendencies. He himself becomes a victim of depression and anxiety when Hamas takes over the reins of government in 2006. He is pressured by his family to marry but he questions how he could raise children in this troubled spot of the world. He longs to leave, but the borders are closed. Filmed from 2006 to 2008, the documentary shows Ayed training young wives and mothers in deep-breathing exercises to calm anxiety, counselling maimed Hamas and Fatah militants in meditation techniques, and leading children in group therapy sessions in which they discuss their reaction to the death of siblings and draw pictures to cope with their emotions.
Dillinger Is Dead
Dates and Venue 22-24 October 2009 | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver
This is the first major work by iconoclast Marco Ferreri (1928-1997) — the Buñuel of the Italian cinema, responsible for some of the most scandalous and subversive films of the 1970s (including La Grande Bouffe which starred Marcello Mastroianni). In this film, we could see a lot of influence from the philosophers and writers , including film directors, of the 50s and 60s. I could see Fellini 81/2 in this film,as well as other Fellini films, and obviously, the existential perusals of Jean-Paul Sartre. The Beckettian sense of boredom and meaninglessness is evident in this film, and the existential "live for the day" is also present. The main character is apparently a scientist-philosopher who designs gas masks, and he is bored. He likes to cook, cooks himself a meal, he watches TV, plays around with his toys, makes love with his maid, shoots his wife, and then, by chance, happens to come across a ship sailing to Tahiti. He is hired as a cook. For a normal film viewer, he'd tend to scratch his head and ask "What the hell is this?" But for the artsy-fartsy avant-garde critic, and advanced film student, they'd perhaps praise this film to high heavens. So, go watch the film and decide which one you are.
© 2009 Ed Farolan